• Published 18th Mar 2013
  • 1,880 Views, 42 Comments

Music and Madness - Bandy

The conductor takes his bows, smiling with pointed teeth as he drives me to insanity.

  • ...




It has to stop.

Trumpets take turns putting their bells against the inside of my head and blasting away, sending unceasing barrage of sound into my skull. Each push of air is a fist beating me down into the floor, flattening me like a pancake. While my right hoof jots down a shaky string of musical notes onto yet another sheet of parchment, my other leg clutches my head, desperate for a reprieve from the agonizingly loud concerto. My writing hoof has long since gone numb, only gripping the quill out of sheer muscle memory.

The work -- my masterpiece -- is almost complete. Looking back, it’s almost funny. It only took four days of uninterrupted work to do what normally would have taken weeks. Even better is the fact that my piece -- my masterpiece -- is shaping up to be my best work ever. My masterpiece.

My masterpiece.

I would say it out loud and relish in its sound, but my throat is too sore and swollen from lack of water. I can’t afford to get up and nourish myself, lest I lose some integral part of my composition to the unretrievable depths of my mind. A little dehydration is a small price to pay for a masterpiece as glorious as mine. It really doesn’t bother me that much, aside from when I pause to scream out in pain.

It hurts then, too -- when I scream.

My breathing quickens as another sharp blast of noise thuds against my forehead. For the life of me I could swear that I’m hallucinating the band in my head and that I’m really just receiving a lobotomy without any anesthetic. That would explain the gratuitous pain, at least. The flutes feel more like they’re stabbing me with their pipes rather than playing, the drums playing on my skull instead of their skins.

But it’s all okay. My masterpiece is almost done. Once it’s all over the band will stop, the conductor with his fanged smile and his oppressive eyes will disappear forever, and I’ll be left with nothing but the greatest piece of music ever written by ponykind. Seems like a fair trade -- my temporary comfort for eternal fame.

It’s like I’m being tested -- yes, that’s it. I’m just running a gauntlet of torturous pain and agony. I need to be deemed worthy before I can be properly recognized for my achievements. After all, not just everypony can go out and write great music. If every piece of music was the best, none of it would be--

The band comes to a screeching halt, their sudden quiet jolting my head forward and onto the desk. A thin trickle of blood mingles with the ink on the page. The conductor shakes his head mirthlessly, as if to say, “You’re wrong. Shut up and keep writing.” I wearily oblige, wincing as the fresh flow of music forces a thin droplet of red out of the cut on my head. Blood, sweat, and tears, they say, is what makes something great. Now I have contributed all three to the music before me.

That has to count for something, at least.

I want to rest. I want to lay my head down and never pick up a quill again. The band continues their painful playing over my lament, the bombastic tones nearly drowning out my own thoughts. I desire so fiercely to be done with this piece of music and close my eyes and never wake up. To sleep forever, undisturbed by sound, shrouded in silence.

The conductor hits a jarring high-note, forcing my tight chest to move up and down again, expelling the air in my lungs. Every breath hurts so much, like my lungs are wrapped in barbed wire. Every move sends another sharpened point driving into my flesh, another barb lodging itself in my soft insides. It is agony, set to the greatest music the world will ever hear. If this is the price I must pay to be able to listen to it, then the ticket prices are going to be extraordinary.

It’s almost done now. The band is upping the tempo, increasing their rhythmic strikes against my skull, heightening up the tension in preparation for one final crescendo. The xylophone becomes my spine, the hard mallets rattling each vertebrae. The bows of the violins and cellos and upright basses are my mane, and every draw against the strings yanks my head back with a violent tugging. My desk is a drum and my hooves, the sticks. My legs flail about spastically, striking the hard wood with vicious legato strokes.

The conductor vamps up the speed. His baton becomes a blur, and for a frightening minute all I can see is blurs of color that buffet me to and fro. With my body rocking left and right I feel like a metronome, stuck on the fastest speed possible. If this keeps up I think I’m going to be sick.

A final, maddening crescendo tears fresh cracks in my bones. I can’t hear now -- the world is drowned out by the demonic din of the orchestra. My vision blurs as I fight to take in breath. The pressure of the sound in my head fills my lungs and chokes me. Through the haze, I can see the conductor turn, his same fanged smile punching out any breath that I have left. His baton is raised, the mindless rise and fall of the music hinging on every flick of the baton.

His smile turns into a smirk, and his eyes close. His conducting stick shoots up and pierces the sky, then drops, carrying lingering bolts of lightning that descend onto my form with merciless speed. All I can do is stare hopelessly upwards and watch.

The final note lifts me up and tears me to pieces, flinging me across the room as a chorus of rueful, demonic voices beat my remains. A terrifying combination of noise and silence becomes one fuzzy din, crumpling my skull and squeezing my brain to the bursting point. When the racket dies out to the fall of the conductor’s baton, I feel the horrible anvil of silence begin its descent, burying itself into my back and flinging me to the floor like a ragdoll.

In the moments after the music fades I can hear two things. My own heart -- pumping frantically at my chest, desperate for calm -- and silence. The blissful, serene sound of silence. I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. Weakly I stare up at the table, locking eyes with my beautiful sonata, sitting jumbled on the table.

It’s over. It’s done.

I try to get up only to realize that my right hoof is still numb and swollen. Oh well. Wounds are temporary, but fame and fortune is eternal. As a shiver washes over me I struggle to stand, then limp my way over to the desk. Staring through a blurry haze at my masterpiece, I can already hear the crowds cheer, the critics rave, the conductor chuckle satanically as he points his baton and cues another round of sound--

The next blast of music blindsides me, throws me against the wall at terminal velocity. No, I think dumbly as wave after wave of noise tears away at my eardrums. It’s supposed to be over. The song is over! Why does the band still play? The conductor offeres no reply, still staring through me with the eyes that could bore holes into concrete.

I try to think, though managing anything more than a single thought is impossible, drowned out by the racket of senseless noise. With that accursed fuzz in my head it’s starting to get pretty hard to do anything. I must get to the bottom of this--

His smile makes me grimace and cuts off any possibility for thought. I can’t take this anymore -- the music that is not music, the laugh that makes me want to pound my head into something solid --

Hey, that’s a good idea. Without thinking I crawl to the table, wrapping myself around one of its solid oak legs before rearing my head back and slamming it into its pointed side. A blinding bolt of pain shoots through my forehead, but I do not waiver. I strike again, wincing hysterically as a tiny spatter of blood falls to the floor. As much as I aimlessly bash my head against wood, the music persists, its maddening squeals and scratches seeming to twist the music that I had so eagerly invited into my head, warping it until it is nothing more than nails on a chalkboard set to an uptempo beat.

The music...

No. It can’t be. The music and my masterpiece... they’re not related. It’s not possible. I beg for an answer, a lie, anything that might spare my now condemned composition. The conductor laughs again, piercing the already demonic din with a fresh burst of numbing noise. There are no words to his babble, but he might as well be reading a death sentence.

I turn a scornful eye at the innocent pages of parchment that sit on my bloodied, ink-smeared desk. The paper isn’t alive, yet in my mind I cast it down like a false idol, leading me astray before leaving me to rot. How dare it betray me like that, inviting this... this thing into my head and allow it to eat me alive? I created it -- how could it do that to me? Anger boils inside me, and my eyes become like the conductor’s; spiteful, red-tinted. In a haze of roiling rage I back away shakily from the traitorous paper, a flaming inferno igniting in my head.

Raging inferno -- that gives me an idea.

Shapes and physical objects become blurs in a blood-red haze as I forsake the desk and limp towards a nearby shelf. I almost stumble before reaching it, but manage to catch myself before I fall. Clawing through its contents one thought consumes my mind like a forest fire would a grove of trees.


To my surprise I find that my hoof is shaking as I attempt to hold the matchbook up. No matter. They’ll serve their purpose even if my hands are shaking like the epicenters of earthquakes. My aching, quaking hoof, the churning rage in my gut, my crimson eyes -- they all fade away, leaving a clear path to my music, still plastered with fear to the desk across the room.

Getting back proves to be rather difficult -- I stumble about wildly as the dull thump-thump of a bass slaps at my ears, leaving them red and raw. I can hardly hear the din now over the satisfying crackle of burning paper that fills my head and leaves it charred and blackened. The music made me do this, it’s not really my fault. I’m just the victim of tragic circumstance. But now it’s time for the real villain -- twenty or so odd sheets of ink-blotted parchment -- to receive its comeuppance.

Finally, and with heroic effort, I reach the table. Every single fire safety lesson that I received as a filly roar to life, flashing warning lights in my mind. But I hardly comprehend them; the sirens are drowned out by a sea of brass, the lights, lost in a crimson fog. The combustible stick slides against the coarse strip and bursts into flame, but I only notice its flickering light once it burns down to a nub and scorches my hoof, leaving only a crispy reminder of my distractedness.

I grab another one in a wavering hoof and light it up, this time tossing it as soon as it flares up onto the pile of papers. They go up almost instantly--

And with the flame rises a delirious uproar in the music. It sounds as if the musicians themselves are burning up, letting out their death throes in violent squawks through their instruments. Like prisoners rattling at their cell bars they pound at the inside of me, desperate to get out, only to find no solace but that found in the fiery inferno. The pages burn with an orange glow as my masterpiece -- the single greatest achievement in all my life -- flares to life and dies before me.

As the glow dims, so does the music. They decrescendo in tandem until there is nothing but a harsh pop and occasional crackle. The destruction is complete, not a single page surviving the maelstrom. Likewise in my head, the music that tormented me seems to, at last, fall silent. I sigh, almost regretting my music’s destruction. It’s a shame that the gloriously terrifying orchestra of my own imagination went up in flames with it, but I think that I’ll survive without hearing that laugh of the conductor that makes my head hurt just thinking of it.

Ah, there it is again. The same demonic howl--

No. No, it can’t still be happening. I box my ears as hard as I can, yet the laughter persists, rising up from the ashes like a possessed phoenix and barreling into my chest, knocking any breath I had left out like it had no business in my lungs in the first place. My denial only seems to strengthen his chuckle as it festers and grows like an infected wound. I beg for it to stop, but he shows no such mercy.

At last I crumble and allow panic-filled hysteria wash over me as I sink to the floor in tears. My masterpiece is gone, charred by my own hoof. My mind in a blackened husk, razed by fire and pummeled by intangible laughter. I am bruised, beaten, bloodied, and broken; the poster-child of defeat. And to top it off, that laugh that refuses to leave me be, the very thing that has done nothing but harm me for these past days won’t leave, bolstered only by my suffering.

The red veil returns, heralding another harsh scraping sound that can only be the wailing of my nightmares broken out of their dreamscape to persecute me in the real world. My cries for help go unheeded, lost in the spiked shroud of sound that falls over my head. I can’t go on like this -- it must end.

No. I must end it.

Fighting the will of the conductor to hold me down with the weight of his shriek, I turn and stumble blindly out the door, using the weight in my chest to gain momentum and fling me into the outside world. A sickly, silver-tint shrouds everything out here -- it dawns on me that it must be night out. How long have I spent in my house, slaving away at my masterpiece only to burn it up--

Another wail threatens to topple me over. I continue at a galloping pace, not stopping even as I hear a cry somewhere behind me. Perhaps a pony, crying out to stop. I don’t heed their calls. His laugh carries me now, swerving over cobblestone and down alleyways, the streets all tinted the same sickening shade of red. I am unclear as to where I am being lead until an especially heavy feeling knocks me off balance, sending me sliding to a painful stop at the apex of the bridge overlooking Ponyville River.

My purpose here becomes clear to me as I pick myself up, numb to the cuts and bruises that now arch and curve through my skin in a delicately abstract pattern. The conductor leans in, eager to see my broken form give in before my task can be completed. But I won’t give him the satisfaction. I won’t let his smug, jagged smile curl into a smirk. I won’t let his horrifying eyes taunt me with their silent stare anymore.

I look around. Even through the haze I can see that there’s nopony in sight -- the night is deserted. A smile cracks my dry lips as I tense my quivering legs. I steel myself, fortifying my thoughts on the knowledge that his laugh will haunt me no more.

My hooves leave the bridge. There is a swift rushing of air, then water, then darkness.


Peace at last.

In the darkness, I am finally at peace.

From the nothing around me, I hear another sound. Piercing, wailing, howling, it is death in all its glory. Its sickle slices through the air, whistling above the din, cutting the tranquil silence into jutting shapes of disarray and chaos. The blade bites into my skin, and there is pain like no other. The noise buffets me about in the void while the imaginary steel slices me.

From the nothing, a shape finally takes form, that of two triangular eyes, irises dilated in delusion, weighing me down until I am crushed under his stare. Blood-red and smirking, they herald a sickening howl that batters my ears like drums -- an all too familiar laugh that shatters my mind like thin glass dropped on cobblestone. The conductor smiles statically, baring his pointed teeth at my shaking form as he descends to me.

I try to scream, but I’m drowned out by the laugh. He dives closer and closer, encompassing my vision until all that remains are his crazed, crimson pupils. I wail again, but there is no sound. My chest implodes, and I sink limply to the bottom of the river, the mad cackle of the conductor echoing in my waterlogged ears. There is a thump, and a brown, silty haze claws at my eyes as my vision narrows to a pinprick of opaque, blue-tinted light.

Then my eyes close, and I am alone in silent oblivion.

Comments ( 36 )

I think that this could have been how Mozart felt in the eyes of God, really.

The story is pungent, extremely well-thought-out, and brilliantly fashioned.
Not a single grammatical mistake or error in pacing is to be found.

Very well-done, my good sir.

Commence read.

Interesting idea.

I take my hat off to you sir

Oh where to begin...

Well first off I should say that this was a riveting read. The pacing is intense, I can feel the madness of the protagonist grow and swell with the notes inside her head. I'm afraid my own skills in writing insane characters are not nearly good enough to properly critique yours, so I'm afraid you will have to suffer through a big load of praise instead. 

The tragedy of this tale is how close Octavia really comes to success. Slaving away, focusing so hard on her need to be immortalized that she hardly notices when she falls prisoner to her own pursuits, embodied of course by her demonic conductor. As she wrote I could hear the screaming of the flutes, the roar of the trumpets, the bellowing growl of the timpani. I could FEEL the music, and I won't lie that it nearly brought me to tears at the last chapter. 

Refraining from saying anything that might ruin the experience of the story for others, the ending is a testament to this tales strength. In three short chapters you had me completely invested in your Octavia, and when I finished with this story I'll admit I was sad to see her go. You have earned yourself an avid reader, it is truly a shame this story does not have more attention. Hopefully Equestria Daily can help with that. 

Also, before I end this, how in the did you come up with this idea? I would love to know more about your inspiration. Also as a friendly admirer of your work I would like to warn you, keep a watch out. It is all to easy to forget the simple fact that 

Ann lies. 

Although from reading this story it would seem to me you already have that figured out. Best of luck, in all of your endeavors.

Woah, Bandy. I've never thought you could be so deep... Thank you for this story. :heart:

2398858 A lot of this story came from the life and work of Robert Schumann, one of my favorite composers from the classical era. His Symphony No. 4 in D minor served as the inspiration behind a lot of the music that Octavia heard as she wrote her masterpiece. Her suicide was also a direct parallel between Schumann's own attempt to take his life by throwing himself into the Rhine. O German composers, why u so crazy?

Ann lies? The Truth is Subjective.

My, quite the prolific writer!:pinkiegasp: Though I seem to say that to alot of writers here:twilightsheepish:

Still, it feels kinda weird being the only one so far who would have any critizism, though I did truely enjoy the read:twilightsheepish:

Well, um... the whole thing kinda just, slipped. Like loud music that was made to impress and only left your ears ringing and you could not remember any notes played or, whether it had words, what it meant.


Truth is completely subjective, and so is Ann. She speaks in riddles, she never says anything she truly means. And yet she somehow manages to speak the truth in spite of that. A better demonstration of this could be found here. I warn you, this is a chapter in the middle of the story, so a lot of it might not makes sense. Ann makes her cameo further down.


To more plainly explain, Ann Lies is the name I write and draw under. See here for examples. A friend of mine is working on a story with me called Darkside Equestria, hence this account name. Although to be honest there is a deeper meaning to the words Ann lies. A good place to start is by indicating that I am not Ann herself, merely an associate.

I'll admit I know almost nothing about Robert Schumann, but crazy people tend to be some of the most interesting so I must do some intensive googling!

2407367I read that on your bio after I posted the comment, and then deleted the part of the comment after I read:twilightsheepish:
Thank you though fro responding and enlightening me alitte on the subject:pinkiehappy: That sure is all very interesting. What means ye "there is deeper meaning to the words?":applejackunsure:


There is an innate tendency in many people to accept what they are offered, as far as news and knowledge is concerned, as the absolute truth. It is a magnetic pull, the desire to completely trust people as being good and honest and forthright all the time. I am no different, and I created Ann as a way of reminding myself of that. Ann is the world and Ann always lies, though the value and truth that can be found in her statements completely changes based upon your viewpoint.

It's like arguing what color a pearl or opal is, one person might say it is purple as the other says it is bright green. The true answer is both, the color changes based upon where you stand.

But I do not want to distract attention from this story. In particular this tale appealed to me specifically because of it's dual nature, is the leader of the symphony merely a figment of her imagination or some ancient intelligence who holds power over the creative-minded? At the end you are left wondering, much like in Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu, whether the supernatural threat is real or the entire thing merely a story dreamed up by one person's genetic insanity. An old dynamic for a story, but so delicious when properly executed.

Have you ever read much Lovecraft? I highly recommend it if you have not. One of my personal favorites is The Statement of Randolph Carter. So delightfully chilling!

:trixieshiftleft: Ann lies :trixieshiftright:

2416879Unless one is inclined to use intellect:trixieshiftright: Why argue what color a pearl is: arguments more often cloud the truth than reveal it. Best just to pick that pearl up:trixieshiftleft:

These confusing messes only end in confusing messes. In this whelming flood, each floating on debris, is it best to greet one with a riddle and secrets or kindness?


It's like arguing what color a pearl or opal is, one person might say it is purple as the other says it is bright green.

False, it's pearl. Ska-boom.


Argument is a principle tool of knowledge, which I will admit is merely a tool of intellect. Using intellect alone to solve problems is not feasible for humans, being emotional creatures, but that fact remains that often the reality of a situation is made irrelevant by the arguments and discussions surrounding it. By "picking the pearl up" one might disrupt the standards of society, and we as bronies know what an atrocity that is. :scootangel:

Still I find it confusing about how you think that one must disrupt the natural formation of confusing messes. Some of our most treasured cultural products are confusing messes. Dali is a rather easy example, but many other things seem to make little sense and yet hold value. This video is a perfect proof of this concept. Are we not individuals that are textbook confusing messes? An orderly life is a placid one, although I do prefer my chaos with a stable frame of reference. So why should we not still greet others with riddles and secrets, but in the spirit of kindness instead of the traditional spirit of deceit?

This is a wonderful conversation, I say!

Except for you. You aren't supposed to find the right answer to a philosophical riddle! :facehoof:
I am defeated. :applecry:


:trixieshiftleft: Ann still lies :trixieshiftright:

2420635Damn straight it's pearl!:twilightsmile: Now let's finally eat the oyster:moustache:

2422559Is there not a difference between arguing and discussing?:trixieshiftleft: Simplicity is the result of refined emotion--mind, I do not mean the simplicity of ignorance. If there is no fuel for the fire, does it not go out (conserning non-violent resistance to evil by force; returning kindness for evil done, etc.)?

Society isn't a pearl.... it's humanity.:derpytongue2: So much the better if society stares at the pearl, and it is plucked from sight, and they open their eyes and look around them. But this plucking isn't an act of violence. My hand is open with the pearl still visable.

Orderly life? Nope: Lived life!

Intellect is not without emotion... pardon, I'm using "intellect" in a similar way to Tolstoy:twilightsheepish: I mean more a kind of awareness:applejackunsure:

Ann sounds consistant

2422559Concerning confusing messes: there is a realm in simplicity and clearness that is very effective, and is rarely seen. There are very few people who are truely humble.



From our conversation I can assume that you value both simplicity and emotion, which I can understand. Myself, I have always appreciated the complexity of everything. From the smallest layer down to the grandest of cosmic spaces there is complexity, but that does not mean I do not see and appreciate simplicity. Take a look at images of the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, then look at a map of a river and its tributaries, then look down at the palm of your hand. The pattern is the same, despite the vast difference in size of these objects, and therein lies the simplicity and refinement of which I think you speak. Complex, simple, at the end of the day they can often be switched back and forth interchangeably. They are one and the same, no matter which side of the pearl you stand on (I apologize, the pearl is definitely ill-suited to this metaphor).

As for intellect and emotion, I would say that they are separate from each-other, but that they do not always need to be. I actually touch on this idea with a character in my story, his journey is essentially learning to reconcile his intelligence with the friendship he has built. He has to learn that humanity and intellect do not need to be separate.

As for Ann, she is if anything honest. For every lie she tells, she speaks only the truth. Yay, :yay: paradoxical mental constructions!

:trixieshiftleft: Ann lies :trixieshiftright:

2425346Well, by emotion, I was assuming we ment something along the lines of "soul":trixieshiftleft::applejackconfused: I don't know.

Great things are made by small things--van Gogh (can't remember exact quote:derpytongue2:). Anyway, seems to illistrate an understanding with the simplicity and complexity being, in the end, one and the same:applejackunsure:

Not so much confusing paradoxes, concerning Ann. She seems normal:scootangel:

Oh, and the cake wasn't a lie. But it does still mean GLaDOS wants to kill you--or at least test you alot:duck:

(This is a very fun convo, indeed:moustache::moustache:)


Why in the world did I not put that in a link? IDIOTMODE ACTIVATED

This is that one thing that I already posted. You know.

:trixieshiftleft: Ann lies :trixieshiftright:

2443843 SCIENCE!!:moustache:

I'm coming with you! Maybe we'll pass another planet with life? If we do, we're stopping and 'splorin'!:raritystarry:



Well you aren't leaving without moi. :twilightsmile: I'm sure the author is probably sick of seeing all these comments unrelated to the story though. He's (or she's? :rainbowhuh: ) probably too polite to say. :fluttershysad:

2450780 Oh please. I found your shenanigans whimsically endearing.

2450915It's good to hear our capracious chatter entertains you:duck:

2450780Well, I thought we were sailing there in our space-pirate ship that can travel faster then light together:rainbowderp::moustache::duck:


Well I find it sufficient to be amusing. Perhaps you'd like to join us? This time-traveling phone booth can fit at least three passengers.


I apologize, I meant to say that I would certainly be exploring the planets we pass as well. I've never watched Star Trek, but I've seen enough Dr. Who to know that things are never boring when it comes to exploring other planets.

ADVENTURE :fluttershyouch:


Band Brony. I followed the link to your band's website, and the song that plays on the front page scared the crap out of me. :fluttercry:

In a good way though, the music is really good!

2455902"Sufficiantly"? Needs be more so?:trixieshiftright:
I haven't watched either... Let the exploring begin! Where is out first destination?:moustache:

2455980 I told Mike to turn the thing down, but did he listen? Nooo.

Also, a chance to get wibbly wobbly with two outstanding gentlemen such as yourselves? Imma take that.


Most excellent then. We voyagers three shall now explore the universe, crashing parties and barging in on alien civilizations! TO INFINITY AND TOWARDS WHATEVER HAPPENS TO BE BEHIND IT!

Wait a minute, what shall are party be called? We must have some adventuring monicker! Hmm... Thinking.....

Ann Lies.

2458633 Liars Beyond Time?


I approve heartily. Let it now be known that the Liars Beyond Time shall depart upon an insanely awesome voyage through time and space. I'll bring the time machine.

Ann Lies

To my surprise I find that my hoof is shaking as I attempt to hold the matchbook up

They’ll serve their purpose even if my hands are shaking like the epicenters of earthquakes.

2721147>>2721024 Whoops, and whoops. Both are fixed now--thank you for pointing them out.

More poetic shit, screw that.

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